Gas tanker explosion in Baltimore kills two amid harsh winter weather

Trucks and vehicles are shown in a pile-up involving a fuel tanker which skidded off the icey 1-95 highway in Baltimore. Photograph: HANDOUT/Reuters

A winter storm of snow, freezing rain and bone-chilling temperatures hit the midwest and eastern US on Saturday, causing hundreds of accidents on icy roads.

At least five deaths were blamed on the slick roads and authorities were investigating other traffic fatalities. The biggest accident happened in Baltimore, when a tanker carrying gasoline skidded off a highway and exploded, authorities said.

Two people died and at least 15 were injured in the 55-vehicle pile-up on Interstate 95, Baltimore city fire chief Roman Clark said. He said it was too early to determine the cause of the crash.

“We have nothing but sheets of ice throughout the city, sidewalks,” Clark said.

It was unclear whether the pile-up started before the tanker crash or was caused by it. The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed.

Winter weather advisories were posted from Denver to Bangor, Maine. Airports reported flight delays or cancellations, interstates and toll roads reduced speed limits and authorities urged drivers to use extreme caution.

The nasty weather put a damper on holiday plans for some, with airports closing runways and cancelling or delaying flights.

There were dozens of crashes on the roads in Indiana – two involving fatalities – due to freezing rain and ice, officials said. It was not immediately clear how many people had been killed. In Ohio, a Columbus woman died when her car skidded off a slick road, authorities said.

In another accident in Baltimore, six people were taken to the hospital after a crash on I-695 involving 15 to 20 vehicles, Baltimore County tweeted.

Ice and snow caused dozens of car crashes in Iowa and Nebraska — at least one of which was fatal in Omaha. Douglas County sheriff’s deputies in eastern Nebraska said one person was killed when his car slid off an icy road north of Omaha, hit a tree and burst into flames.

Authorities in New Mexico said a multi-vehicle wreck on a snow- and ice-covered interstate highway in the north-eastern part of the state actually involved multiple crashes in one area, not one big pile-up. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Temperatures plummeted and people braced for the cold. Temperatures in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were expected to drop to -20F overnight. People were advised to stay indoors for the weekend. The low temperature was expected to reach 4F in Chicago on Sunday.

In Virginia, a Fairfax County firetruck slid off an icy road while responding to a crash, local news media reported. No one was injured.

More than three dozen crashes and a fatality were reported in the northern part of the state, authorities said. Police said a man was found dead on the side of I-495, about a mile from a 23-vehicle crash.

It appeared the man was involved in the crash and had walked away from a disabled vehicle. It was not immediately clear how the man died.

In Colorado, up to a foot of snow fell in places, snarling traffic. Washington Dulles International Airport reopened two runways after having to close all runways for more than three hours due to icy weather.

In North Carolina, police and emergency workers reported more than 100 crashes overnight in Raleigh and Charlotte as drizzle combined with temperatures below freezing to create dangerous icy patches.

Charlotte police reported two people killed in separate fatal crashes early on Saturday, although investigators were still trying to figure out if ice caused the wrecks.

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By Rachel Ncube 12/17/2016 16:47:00